Dr. Carmel McDougall (D.Phil) - Principal investigator

Carmel is a molecular biologist with a broad interest in functional and evolutionary genomics, particularly of marine invertebrates. Her primary research has been in the field of molluscan biomineralisation, with a focus on identifying the genes involved in controlling shell synthesis, understanding how these genes have evolved, and investigating how variation in these genetic factors leads to differences in shell (or pearl) properties.

She is a Brisbane local and obtained her BSc (Hons) at the University of Queensland. Following this, she undertook her D.Phil at the University of Oxford (spending her final year at the University of St Andrews) in the UK, investigating the evolution and development of polychaete worms under the supervision of Dave Ferrier. Carmel’s postdoctoral work brought her back to UQ where, in Bernie Degnan’s laboratory, she applied genomic and bioinformatic techniques to improve the quality of the South Sea Pearl, and undertook studies into the evolution of molluscan biomineralisation.

In 2017 Carmel moved to Griffith University to establish her research laboratory. She has initiated new collaborations with the edible oyster industry, and is using an Advance Queensland Fellowship to apply functional molecular approaches to challenges currently encountered during hatchery production and farming of these oysters. She is also applying this knowledge to support various shellfish reef restoration projects. Carmel enjoys using comparative and functional genomics and experimental studies to provide practical outcomes for sustainable aquaculture and marine conservation, and to shed light on the evolution of the amazing repertoire of organisms found within our oceans.

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DR. Kimberly Finlayson (PHD) - Postdoctoral researcher

Kimberly completed a BSc in marine biology and wildlife biology at Griffith University. She received 1st class honours investigating recovery of intertidal communities following an oil spill. Kim went on to complete a PhD at Griffith on the development, application and validation of an in vitro toxicological model for sea turtles under the supervision of Dr Jason van de Merwe, Prof Frederic Leusch and Dr Colin Limpus. This project involved the establishment of primary cell cultures for use in species-specific cell-based bioassays to identify risk to wild sea turtle populations. Kim’s post-doctoral work continues to focus on establishing species-specific cell cultures for a variety of species for use in toxicology and other applications.

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Julieta Gamboa Cutz (M.Sc) - PhD Student

Julieta finished her Masters degree in Marine Biology at The Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV-IPN Yucatan, Mexico). In the past two years, she has been working with organic carbon stocks and carbon sequestration in mangroves, which was the topic of her masters thesis. Her masters research was focused on measuring carbon stocks in conserved, restored, and degraded mangroves, including an evaluation of restoration techniques through carbon sequestration measurements.   

Her PhD research will focus on identifying the microbial community related to the methane cycle in soil of coastal wetlands throughout a salinity gradient and its relation with physicochemical variables that influence the carbon cycle. She will also obtain quantitative data of methane activity in soil, identifying driving variables related to the carbon cycle. This research will be under the supervision of Dr Fernanda Adame and Dr Carmel McDougall.

Her research interests include: Wetlands management, restoration, carbon stocks, climate change, microbial communities, methanogen communities, methane activity.


Lorelle Holcroft (M.Phil) - PhD student

Following a career in primary education spanning 38 years, Lorelle retired as a deputy principal and moved to her first love, zoology completing a Master of Philosophy with the thesis Elucidating the diversity of mid-eastern Queensland Pinwheel Snails (Eupulmonata: Charopidae) using aspects of shell morphology. She is now studying for her PhD on a complex genus of Camaenid land snail, Figuladra -Unravelling Figuladra: Integrating morphology and mitochondrial DNA for species delimitation in the hadroid land snail Figuladra (Eupulmonata: Camaenidae). 

Her passion is the land snails of Australia and working with Dr John Stanisic (the Snail Whisperer) to raise the public’s and students’ knowledge of the important role invertebrates which make up 99% of terrestrial biodiversity, play in creating and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Much of her research time is spent in the labs in the Queensland Museum or she can be found in schools working with students or in street science scenarios.

Lorelle is a member of her local Rotary Club where she is the district representative for Earlyact, a community service club for primary school students and the district coordinator for the Rotary Leadership Institute.


Jonathan W. Lawley (M.Sc) - PhD Student

Jonathan completed a BSc in Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil) and a MSc in Zoology at the University of São Paulo (Brazil). During his undergraduate degree, Jonathan had diverse research experiences, from studies on succession of marine invertebrate fouling communities to biogeography of marine invertebrate life histories, the latter during an exchange program at Monash University, Melbourne. With these studies, he realized his interests lied on the ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates, based on both morphological and molecular variability. Since then, he has focused on jellyfish, which started with studies on stings and population dynamics and continued with a project on the distribution of a box jellyfish, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution (USA). For his Masters he studied moon jellyfish systematics, focusing on delimitation and description of cryptic species.

 Jonathan was awarded Griffith University’s Postgraduate Research Scholarship and the International Postgraduate Research Scholarship to support his PhD work. This study focusses on investigating the endogenous and exogenous drivers of colour variation in Catostylus mosaicus, the common blubber jellyfish, under the supervision of Dr. Kylie Pitt, Dr. Tony Carroll and Dr. Carmel McDougall. The aim is to unravel the pigments expressed by these jellies and candidate genes involved in their expression, as well as environmental factors that might play a role.


Nikolina Nenadic (B.Sc) - honours student and research assistant

Niki recently completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in wildlife biology and marine biology at Griffith University on the Gold Coast campus. Within her degree, she worked on a small Work Integrated Learning project with Dr Carmel McDougall, assessing Queensland Unknown Disease (QX Disease) infection rates between farmed and wild oysters located at Colman Road Reserve.

She has recently begun her honours project with Carmel McDougall which will further investigate QX Disease and is also employed as a Research Assistant in the laboratory, helping to investigate the diversity and distribution of Queensland oyster species.


Tessa Page (M.Sc) - PhD Student

Tessa received a B.S.c. in Biology and Environmental Science from California Lutheran University and a M.S.c. in Biology from San Francisco State University. Her M.S.c. research investigated the effects of environmental change on the mineralogy, development, and molecular response of porcelain crabs.  Between finishing her M.S.c. and starting her Ph.D., Tessa taught Marine Biology and Introduction to Biological Experimentation at California Lutheran University. For her Ph.D. thesis, Tessa is studying the molecular and physiological responses of crustose coralline algae to changes in their environment brought on by the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Tessa was awarded Griffith University’s Postgraduate Research Scholarship and the International Postgraduate Research Scholarship to support her Ph.D. work. Tessa is a joint member of the Diaz-Pulido lab and McDougall lab, giving her the flexibility to examine responses at the ecological, physiological, and molecular level. Her preliminary work with building transcriptomes of four species of CCA has resulted in the first ever compiled and characterised transcriptomes for this group of algae.


Dr. Ali Shokoohmand (PhD) - Postdoctoral researcher

Ali Shokoohmand is a research fellow focusing on integrated transcriptomic and computational studies to identify molecular mechanisms underlying tissue structure and function in marine invertebrates, including molluscs. Ali studied cell and molecular biology, with an interest in cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions. After completing his doctorate studies at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2015, he joined the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre-Queensland (APCRC-Q) (2015-2017) where he developed and validated bioengineered 3D cancer models to investigate molecular mechanisms underlying cellular and micro-environmental regulation of cancer development and progression. 

Living with a strong stewardship responsibility to restore and maintain the earth and its natural environments; and having a special interest in major transitions in animal evolution, such as the emergence of multicellularity and morphological complexity, and their relationship to genomic complexity, he joined our laboratory to pursue what he is truly passionate about. While studying Master of Data Science at the University of Queensland and continuing his research in functional genomics, he aims to establish himself as an evolutionary biologist and data scientist who provides practical solutions for sustainable marine and freshwater ecosystems.  

Associated researchers


Nathan McIntyre (B.Sc) - PhD student

Nathan graduated from Griffith University with a B.Sc. in Applied Biology and Wildlife Biology. He then undertook an Honours project at Griffith, comparing population genetic structure in two freshwater turtle species from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and received 1st Class Honours on completion. For his PhD research, Nathan is undertaking a population genomic study of Australian Magpies in southern Australia, under the supervision of Prof Jane Hughes and Dr Daniel Schmidt. The project infers the demographic history of magpie populations from Restriction-site Associated DNA sequence (RADseq) data, and also includes work on the effect of environmental conditions on breeding success in magpie territories, and historical species distribution modelling. Nathan is also involved in population genetic studies of various marine turtle species, as a research assistant to Dr Nancy FitzSimmons.

Join the lab!

Enquiries from potential HDR (PhD and Masters) and honours candidates that are interested in joining the lab are welcome. Please contact Carmel to discuss potential projects. Expressions of interest for Griffith University HDR scholarship rounds close in April and September annually. Note that these applications are competitive, and potential applicants should have evidence of relevant research experience.

A number of fellowship opportunities are available for postdoctoral scientists. Interested candidates should contact Carmel by email with an introduction to your background and research interests, a brief outline of the proposed project, and a description of how the project is aligned with the research focus of the lab.